Nope, this entry is not going to be about the weather here in Italy. It’s about thermometers, and umbrellas. Every house in Italy has got at least one thermometer, or so it would seem. And you would not believe how many umbrellas lurk in Italian houses.
I regularly hear that someone has had a day off because they had what sounded like a ‘fever’ – ‘febbre’ in Italian. This gave me the impression initially that Italy was full of exotic diseases, until I got the dictionary out and discovered that ‘ho la febbre’ means I have a temperature.
Now, for those of you who are not into taking your temperature regularly, the body seems to operate at around 37°C, although mine seems to hum along quite nicely at 35.3ish°C for some obscure reason. Italians do seem to be a little obsessed with their body temperatures. I mean before I got here, back in the UK, I didn’t even own a thermometer, so I never knew whether I had a temperature or even the correct temperature. And I never took a day off work because I had a high temperature.
When I was young, I vaguely remember my mum brandishing a thermometer when I had measles or some other kiddy ailment. Then I grew up, left home and thermometers did not even cross my mind. Then I came to Italy and, among other things, I got caught up in thermometer culture. We’ve got this Mickey Mouse digital thermometer, as well as three other types of thermometer for our little one and I will admit to having used it on more than one occasion. Yes, the obsession has got to me too!
But then, there are lots of funny little ailments which Italians tend to suffer from, and here are a few, though by no means all.
Mysterious ailments Abound in Italy
Mysterious ailments do seem to abound here, for example there is the ‘cervicale‘, which as far as I can make out is a sort of neck ache, the existence of which, of course, sends the sufferer dashing for the nearest thermometer, I imagine. Or for a dose of antibiotics.
Next, you have ‘colpa d’aria‘, if I have spelled that right, which I think is a chill, and which – the doctors out there should correct me if I’m wrong on this one – is not really a classified medical condition, unlike a cold for example, which is technically a viral infection, as I understand it. However, having said this, our pediatrician did actually suggest that our little one may have been affected by one of these dreaded, thermometer inducing, ‘colpa d’aria’.
Is this really a comment that a fully qualified Doc should be making? I’m not too sure personally. A more doctor-like comment would have been something like ‘he has caught a virus’ or something similar.
A brief aside, here in Italy all children are assigned their own special doctor – a personal pediatrician who you have to go and see when the little one is not too well. Once they get older, they can go and see a, er, normal doctor. Back in the UK, pediatricians were reserved for specialist opinions and not for everyday consultation.
Our Italian pediatrician, I have to say, is a wonderful person and is very human and down to earth.
Back on track, another mysterious ailment is connected to digestive problems and these can also lead to a day off work. Apparently, eating the wrong combination of certain foods can play havoc with your digestion in Italy. My other half is rather prone to these problems, as is her mother.
So much for that famous Mediterranean diet! Maybe Italian food is not as great as its cut out to be, you may be moved to observe.
I could be wrong here, but I’m pretty certain that people from the UK or the States are not as prone to the range of illnesses which appear to hit Italy’s population remarkably regularly.
A Sensitive Race
There is other evidence that Italians are a sensitive race, too. As we all know, Italians love clothes and in winter they put most of them on.
As soon as the season officially changes from summer to autumn – not that it actually becomes cold – everybody puts on a heavy coat, even while driving, plus a scarf, and more often than not a pair of gloves. I have not even dug my scarf out yet this year and don’t even know where my gloves are. But then I am a cold northern European, in more ways than one, or so it would seem.
Umbrella’s A Go Go
Another thing which gets me about Italy is that I use an umbrella here much more than I ever did in the UK. This is strange seeing as everyone knows that the rain falls incessantly in the British Isles.
Why ever would someone in Italy need to use an umbrella so much? Well, it’s the type of rain you get here. When it does rain in Italy, and it does not do so all that often, apart from during winter here in Milan, it really rains, indeed, it pours, cats, dogs and small elephants. The rain also lasts for longer periods, and can pour for a week or so.
Strange things happen here in Milan after a few hours of what I can only say must be something similar to a tropical downpour.
In Milan, roads explode when it rains, pavements collapse, cars get trapped, and blocks of flats become islands. OK, maybe I am exaggerating just a little, but the block of flats becoming an island was real. I know, I was marooned in my apartment island one day when I woke up to find my whole block had become a mini-island surrounded by water.
Another time I actually had to take my shoes and socks off and wade across a flooded side-road, and climb over a railway embankment just to get myself home. The less adventurous onlookers were rather concerned for my health, because they said the water was full of rats.
I did not see, or feel, one of the aforementioned rodents, but I did take my temperature as soon as I got home, just to be on the safe side.
Then there are other things which can be dangerous in Italy, like sweating, air movement, and cold drinks. Even the humble cappuccino may have a deleterious effect on one’s health, especially when consumed after eating, or late at night, as Italians may point out to you.